Stem cells can be collected from the blood, bone marrow or umbilical cord blood. If your child needs a transplant, your stem cell transplant team will determine the source of cells that is right for his or her transplant, including:

Autologous Stem Cell Transplant

When a patient undergoes an aggressive course of chemotherapy and/or radiation, his or her immune and blood-forming cells are frequently destroyed along with the cancer cells. These patients may be candidates for an autologous transplant. In this process, healthy stem cells are collected from the patient prior to the intensive cancer therapy. After treatment, the stored stem cells are infused into the patient’s blood where they find their way to the bone marrow and begin to produce new, healthy cells. In addition to cancer treatments, we also offer this therapy for children with severe autoimmune diseases such as (but not inclusive of) systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. Research on the best approaches for this therapy — including novel high-dose drug combination and gene therapy to correct genetic defects in the patient's own cells — are ongoing at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital.

Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant

When a patient’s ability to make blood cells has been weakened by leukemia, blood disease or a genetic disease such as sickle cell anemia, he or she might undergo an allogeneic transplant, which involves a transplant of stem cells from a related or unrelated donor. New, healthy stem cells from a donor help restore the blood-forming cells of the patient’s bone marrow.

In approximately 60 percent of patients who require this procedure, the match is a sibling or an unrelated adult volunteer. In the remaining patients, thanks to new scientific advances, stem cells from a biological parent can be used in instances where a matched donor is not available.

  • Synergenic: A type of allogeneic transplant, the blood cells come from the patient’s identical twin. This is always a perfect match.
  • Cord blood: Transplant from donated umbilical cord blood cells. A type of allogeneic stem cell transplant, umbilical cord blood comes from a bank of donated newborn umbilical cord blood that was removed from the placenta after birth and stored. Infrequently, the child's own cord blood, or that of a sibling is used for the procedure.
  • Mixed chimerism: A newer type of treatment, also known as a "mini-transplant" or "reduced intensity transplant" that involves lower doses of chemotherapy and radiation before transplantation. Effective for certain cases, the side effects of conventional treatments are reduced.